Dunya Mikhail

Dunya-Mikhail_Credit_Cary-Loren Dunya-Mikhail_project-imageABOUT THE ARTIST

Dunya Mikhail was born in Iraq in 1965 and came to the United States in 1996. She has six books in Arabic, three in English, and one in Italian. They include The Iraqi Nights, Diary of A Wave Outside the Sea, and The War Works Hard. She also edited a pamphlet of Iraqi poetry titled 15 Iraqi Poets. Her Arabic books are published in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Tunisia. Her books in English are published in New York by New Directions. They are translated into English by Kareem James Abu-Zeid and Elizabeth Winslow, and into Italian by Elena Chiti. Her honors include the Kresge Fellowship, Arab American Book Award, and the United Nations Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing. The War Works Hard was shortlisted for Griffin, and named on of “Twenty-Five Books to Remember from 2005” by the New York Public Library. She is the co-founder of the Mesopotamian Forum for Art and Culture in Michigan. She currently works as an Arabic special lecturer at Oakland University in Michigan.

To see more work by Dunya Mikhail, visit www.dunyamikhail.com.

Top Right Photo Credit: Cary Loren

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This is a multi-media presentation by Iraqi-American poet Dunya Mikhail. The one-hour presentation will start with a reception and include a reading, songs, images, short film and oud playing. A question and answer session and book signing will follow. Collaborators include Alise Alousi, Hasan Hamid, Susie Ibarra, Nashwan Pola, and Jeannie Vanasco.


What excites me the most about writing poetry is how a poem opens a space of discovery for me, and then it expands into the meanings added by the active readings of others, like immigration. The readers immigrate to our poetry and then, gradually, they associate it with some semantic experience, a familiar or unfamiliar one. The poem travels between the individual gesture and the multicultural exchange. Due to the continuous violence in the world, we feel alone but also together in our alienation. We resort to poetry for a possibility of survival. To say “I survived,” however, is not so final as to say “I am alive.” We wake up to find that the war survived with us; it exists in our minds and in our creative production. In my writing, I try to turn the catastrophic event into an aesthetic one.

My native language is Arabic, but these days I am writing bilingually (first I write from right to left and then from left to right). Only part of my poetry was published in Iraq, but that was enough to put me in danger (despite all the metaphors I used to hide my meanings from the censors). In order to write freely, I left my country. I arrived at Detroit in 1996 and I think I am staying in it. The first emotional connection I was able to make in my new place was the moment I went back to writing. That very moment you make sense of the world and thus you are accompanied by others (the loved and the loving others), not only poets, but everybody. I realized that wherever I was (even on an airplane over cities I knew or did not know), just being poetry, I felt at home.


Arab American National MuseumThe Arab American National Museum (AANM) is the first and only museum in the United States devoted to Arab American history and culture. Arab Americans have enriched the economic, political and cultural landscape of American life. By bringing the voices and faces of Arab Americans to mainstream audiences, we continue our commitment to dispel misconceptions about Arab Americans and other minorities. The Museum brings to light the shared experiences of immigrants and ethnic groups, paying tribute to the diversity of our nation.

The Arab American National Museum documents, preserves and presents the history, culture and contributions of Arab Americans.

The AANM is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums; an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution; and a founding member of the Immigration and Civil Rights Network of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.

Mesopotamian Forum

The Mesopotamian Forum for Art & Culture is a group of volunteers who meet monthly to organize cultural events in efforts to activate the culture of their city.